30 January 2011

Unrest in Egypt (IV): Another idea for President Mubarak

Mr. President:

Contact Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber to write a song about you.

I mean, they got a pretty good start already with "Pharaoh's Story" from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. 

A little tweak here and there, and BAM, the people are humming away!

Pharaoh Hosni he was a powerful man.
With the ancient modern world in the palm of his hands.
To all intents and purposes he,
was Egypt with a capital E.
Whatever he did, he was showered with praise.
If he cracked a joke, than you chortled for days.
No one had rights or a vote but the king,
in fact you might say he was fairly right wing.
When pharoh's Hosni's around, than you got down, on the ground.
If you ever find yourself near Ramases Mubarak,
get down on your knees!

Coincidence...?

...that that evil Harry Potter kid, Draco Malfoy, and Julian Assange look SO MUCH ALIKE?

Unrest in Egypt (III): Cabinet Suggestions for President Mubarak

As my two earlier posts on Egypt, I hope, make clear: I am a man of answers.  In light of this, I have some suggestions for President Mubarak's cabinet who will serve him better than the choices he's already made.  His picks should be "outside the box," at least if he really wants to survive or at least make it seem like he's willing to change.  All of my suggestions are either out-of-work, soon-to-be-out-of-work, or need a different job..

1. Regis Philbin...because EVERYBODY loves the Reege

2. Joe Lieberman...because he's shown him to be enough of a hawk to please Mr. Mubarak and, now that Mr. Joe-mentum is a lame duck, I'm pretty sure he need not be in the country at all...much less Connecticut

3. Susan Bysiewicz...because what are the odds that serving in the Egyptian cabinet has any requirements regarding the practice of law, and, more importantly, as former Secretary of State who oversaw presidential primaries in CT, she knows a thing or two about how to hold an election that doesn't mean anything

4. New Britain Mayor Tim Stewart...because, while he isn't going to be out of work, he's suggested that, even if he wins the open state senate seat, he just may stay mayor too.  So, heck, I say, why not have THREE jobs

5.  Charlie Sheen...because, to be perfectly honest, we're just tired of him here

Trust me, Hosni, you'll thank me later!

Unrest in Egypt (II): Advice to President Mubarak


If you have no intention of leaving (which, probably, is unwise), and aren't interested in reform, then I suggest:

Spectacle

Spectacle

Spectacle

You can thank me later, Hosni.

29 January 2011

A shot in the (Monkees') "Head": A film review

Last night I watched The Monkees' movie Head (1968), directed by Bob Rafelson (and co-written by Rafelson, the creator of the Monkees' television show, and Jack Nicholson).

Wow.  I am so glad I didn't go and see it when it was released (despite my being a HUGE Monkees fan at the time) because it certainly wasn't just a longer version of the tv show.  Indeed, as I've read in various places, it plays like a conscious attempt by Rafelson to kill off the group he had created --- as the image of the four of them jumping off a bridge at film's end would certainly seem to support.

Throughout the film there is the theme (expressed in a variety of fashions) of the Monkees' being trapped (in a big black box, no less), of their being plastic (dismembered Monkees mannequins abound), of their being acutely aware of their being watched (the big eye behind the restroom mirror!) and manipulated and...

The film is purposely disjointed -- psychedelic in many ways -- and plays with any number of film genres (the western, war, horror, sci fi...).  It is, however, much darker than the G rating would seem to suggest.  After all, one doesn't usually associate Mickey, Davey, Mike, and Peter with the famous '68 footage of the execution of Vietcong guerrilla, but we see it at least three times during the movie, along with other images of the Vietnam war.
 

The film surprises since it's supposedly a vehicle for the Monkees, but it makes a whole lot more sense when one realizes that Rafelson's and Nicholson's next collaboration would be Easy Rider (with Dennis Hopper who makes a cameo here, along with Frank Zappa, Annette Funicello, Sonny Liston, Victor Mature, the aforementioned writers, Toni Basil, and Packer great Ray Nitschke!).  The film's creators, in short, like "the young generation" in the Monkees theme song, had "something to say," and they weren't going to let the fact that the fan base of the Monkees were what later would be called 'tweens stand in their way.  And the foursome were, for the most part, willing co-conspirators because they were, in fact, feeling trapped too.  (Remember: it was the group who asked Jimi Hendrix to open for them on tour -- and he wasn't exactly what their fans expected or wanted as a warm-up act!)

If this film starred anyone but the Monkees, I think it would have had an impact at its release and would be better known today.  (The perverse trailer for the film, which shows just the headshot of an anonymous man staring at the camera, certainly would have offered no incentive to see the film.)  That Rafelson and Nicholson would go on to influence American cinema in any number of important ways would seem to me to make this film a must-see.

So see it. 

And tell me the diner scene in Head isn't a direct precursor to Jack's ordering scene in Five Easy Pieces!

Unrest in Egypt: Some thoughts


1. Hosni Mubarak is 82?  He looks great!  (All that election-fixing and ignoring his people really wears well on him.)

2. If I were Mubarak, I'd be less than pleased to see pictures of my tanks (which I had sent specifically to break up the protests and enforce the curfew) being sat on and ridden by the protesters.

3. Mubarak made a major mistake when he shut down internet access in Egypt several days ago.  Without facebook, what else did all those people have to do other than to hit the streets?  Remember, tyrants, in the future, keep your people on-line...if they're playing Farmville, they won't be burning you in effigy in every city throughout your country.

4. The protesters in Tunisia and Yemen must be really ticked.  They were first, and everyone's paying attention to Egypt.

5. Where have you gone, Cleopatra? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you!



(And, not really about Egypt, this question stems from the news coverage about it: Are U.S. presidents issued sweaters to wear on weekends?)

   

27 January 2011

Frank Sinatra: The Concert Collection DVD Set

Some thoughts on the new DVD boxed set in my most recent blog for Blue-Eyes.com.

Two media critiques (weather and sports)

1.  Local news should not (as they did amidst the recent sub-zero temperatures) report, on the one hand, how the cold was sending more and more people to the hospital with frostbite and only those who NEEDED to be outside should go outside, and, on the other, in the very next story, have a weatherperson on the roof of a building to show how cold it was outside.  A reporter in a parka, hat, and gloves, and standing on/in front of a snowdrift, is no more credible than one in a studio.  And just because a remote broadcast is possible doesn't mean it's necessary.

2.  If Federer is being annoyed by Djokovic's incessant pre-serve ball bouncing at the Australian Open, feel free to make mention of it, but DON'T focus a camera on his hand bouncing the ball.  It IS in fact annoying, and, while Mr. Federer must suffer through it, the viewers do not.  We can (and this one did) turn it off.

21 January 2011

I can't make fun of Berlusconi...

...and not also give my kudos to the "Italian authorities" who said "no" to Hospira Inc.! 

"If you're going to use this drug to execute people, you're not exporting it from our country..."

You make me proud, Italy.

To quote Vergil, Hic amor, haec patria est. ("This is my love; this is my fatherland.")

I can't believe...

...that Italian Prime Silvio Berlusconi is 74; he looks great! 

I CAN believe that the old adage "power is an aphrodisiac" explains exactly what all those (way-too-) young women see in him.

20 January 2011

Read Seneca: a review of "Art" at Playhouse on Park


Just saw a fine production of Art at Playhouse on Park, which runs through Sunday, January 23, and two quick personal anecdotes come to mind. 

The first just happened this weekend, while visiting my sister-in-law in Baltimore.  We were invited into her upstairs bathroom, currently under renovation, to determine the "whiteness" of the walls.  While in the white I saw the very faint pink by which she is bothered to the point of wanting to repaint, in the big picture the walls are white.  (How often, after all, will one be in the bathroom with a klieg light?!)

The other memory dates back to the '90s in graduate school, as I practiced presenting a paper (to faculty and fellow students at The Catholic University of America) which I was to deliver at a professional conference at Boston U a few weeks later.  It was an excerpt from my dissertation and dealt with American neo-Latin poet through the lens of the literary critical theory deconstruction.  Well, at least one faculty member got a hardy laugh at my (admittedly) jargony attempt and sent the clear (and important) message to trod lightly when dealing with such theories.

Both of these anecdotes touch directly on the theme and plot of the current production at POP.  Art was written by Yasmina Reza in 1995 and, translated from the French by Christopher Hampton, would win the 1998 Tony for Best Play.  While dealing with the question of what is (and isn't) art (e.g., Can an all-white painting really be considered legitimate?), the sharply written script really focuses on the nature, purpose, and limits of friendship. 

In a quick 75 minutes, the relationships between Marc (Andy Gershenzon), Yvan (Sean Harris), and Serg (Rich Hollman) are played out in scenes fueled by plenty of superiority, insecurity, indignation, humor and love to go around.  Harris and Hollman are reunited with director Tom Ridgely from last year's POP production of The Complete Wks of Wllm Shakespeare (Abridged), and again show the ability and chemistry to make the audience laugh/gasp/hurt in quick succession.  Mr. Gershenzon deftly captures Marc's role as the critic/catalyst.  While Marc, in lesser hands, easily could be simply unlikeable, here the audience -- even as we recognize his worst tendencies -- never stop understanding and sympathizing with him, no small feat.

The minimalist design of Michael Jarrett's lights and the set by Amanda Jesse worked very well to highlight the words and actors (although Ms. Jesse's costumes less so: I never quite bought Marc's sweater and "Beatle boots" and, given the constant mention of Yvan's having lost 10 pounds, perhaps his clothing should've been a bit looser).

In the end, the play is a classic because, though very much of its time (no one outside English doctoral programs is talking deconstruction now), its themes of friendship and the evolution of art never go out of style.  If you don't believe me, take Serg's advice and "Read Seneca."        

With Regis Philbin Retiring....

...let me make this perfectly clear about the soon-to-be-open position, I AM INTERESTED.

Now, if I would get the job, I'm more than willing to allow the show's name to remain unchanged. 
(If this would mean changing MY name to Regis, that's okay.) 

If the co-host and producers want to change it to "Live with Kelly and Gilly Lee," I could live with that too. 

In other words, I'm flexible, and all is negotiable.

Call me.

Assuming continued recovery at her current pace...


...I can't see anyone beating Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the presidential race in 2016!

Think about it: Whom have you got who's got better vibes?!



One Thing I Liked and Nine Things I Didn't Like about the Bushnell Broadway Series' "Wizard of Oz"

DIDN'T LIKE

9.  I can't imagine this ever got anywhere close to Broadway (despite being part of the Bushnell's Broadway Series).  It's a nice production, but not Broadway-quality.  It's a REALLY REALLY REALLY good children's theatre production, but South Pacific it ain't.

8. Dusty's "Toto" got the final bow of the night.


7.  While I really liked the inclusion of the "Jitterbug" number (which had been cut out of the film), the jitterbugs' costumes were too Seuss-ish.  Oz ain't the Jungle of Nool.

6.  There needed to be more flying monkeys, and they needed to be scarier.  Live theater can be and should be even more visceral than film (unless the producers didn't want to scare the little ones in the audience which, if true, would seem to prove that this really is a children's theater production).

5.  Pat Sibley's "Wicked Witch of the West" was way too Margaret Hamilton. 

4.  Jesse Coleman's "Cowardly Lion" was way too Bert Lahr.

3.  The only Yellow Brick Road was on the backdrop or projected onto a screen.


2. The volume of the sound effects of the creaking of the rusty Tinman even annoyed the 6th Graders with whom I attended the show.



1. EVERY SINGLE TIME that dog came on stage the audience "awwwwwwwwwww"'d.  Really, audience?  EVERY time?

LIKED

1.  The "Poppies" number was an ingenious piece of choreography and costuming that made one realize the magic of the theatre!

(I'm not mentioning the obvious: the Arlen/Harburg score is absolutely BRILLIANT.)

17 January 2011

The house always wins

Packers over Falcons
Steelers over Ravens
Bears over Seahawks
Jets over Patriots

It's a really good thing I'm not a betting man.  We'd be homeless right now, if I were.

14 January 2011

It's called PROGRESS


Back 60 years ago when it began, the Today Show had one chimp, J. Fred Muggs.

Now they've got four!

13 January 2011

No primate punning here: A Review of Eric Lefcowitz's "Monkee Business"

  I just finished reading my first book ever on my new (used) Barnes and Noble e-reader, Eric Lefcowitz's Monkee Business: The Revolutionary Made-for-TV-Band.
     First a word about the nook.  I enjoyed the reading experience quite a bit (especially when curled up under the covers while still being able to "turn the page" with just a thumb push)!  On cold Connecticut nights that's a good thing.  The ease of navigation made it all go very smoothly.  I'm no tweeting texter, so the reader interface (or whatever its called) must be fairly straightforward for me to have become so comfortable with it so quickly.  Very occasionally the captions under the photos were either hard to read because of their size or incomplete because of the layout, but overall, I'm encouraged that this is a very viable way to read.  (I will say I'm not sure I could use a nook to read a book with which I was already familiar in hardcopy because the size of the page is fairly different, but with a book new to me -- like this Monkee one -- I had nothing with which to compare it.) 
     Now the book.  I should state that I've been a Monkees fan since the 60s.  I used to watch the show in syndication.  The family owned both the More of the Monkees and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones, LTD albums.  I remember cutting out a cardboard guitar to play along with the records, and I sang a pretty mean version of "She" -- especially the "And now I know just why she keeps me hangin' round (hangin' round)/she needs someone to walk on/so her feet don't touch the ground (don't touch the ground)/but I love her (love her), need her (need her), want her (want her), yeah (yeah) yeah (yeah) yeah (yeah), SHEEEEEEEE" part!  I learned a lot about heartbreak from those songs.  Looking back, although my personality and size made me more a Davy Jones showbiz type of guy (and I was quite fond of the Nilsson-penned "Cuddly Toy," I really wanted to be Michael Nesmith (whose performance of "What Am I Doing Hangin' Round?" is as good a Leaving-the-girl-in-Mexico-was-indeed-a-mistake song as Sinatra's "South of the Border").  In short, I always have liked the Monkees and considered them a non-inconsiderable part of my cultural heritage.
     Eric Lefcowitz's book, therefore, is a god-send.  It offers not just a history of the band from it inception in 1965 until 2010, but more importantly it places the band/television show(s)/albums/concerts/film into the larger cultural scene.  It demonstrates how the Monkees foreshadowed many things (great and small, good and bad) that are central to our world in 2011. 
     We meet a cast of characters, both the obvious (Mickey Dolenz, Jones, Nesmith, and Peter Tork) and the unexpected (i.e., familiar names not normally thought of in relation to the Prefab Four: creators Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, music mogul Don Kirshner, actor/writer Jack Nicholson, songwriters Boyce, Hart, Neil Diamond, Carole King, Nilsson, et al.).  Then add in the friends, fans, and close acquaintances of the band (Stephen Stills, who had auditioned for the band and recommended Peter for it; Jimi Hendrix, who opened for the Monkees at their request!; Van Dyke Parks; the Beatles; David Crosby; Neil Young; Jackson Browne, et cetera...a veritable "Who's Who" of rock).
     Lefcowitz's style is straightforward, and the book both informative and insightful.  We get plenty of the details (the personalities, feuds, and factions) that such a history must offer.  More significantly, however, when looking at the larger cultural landscape, the author, while making significant claims about the Monkees' place, never oversteps, never attempts to make too grand a case about them.  Anybody who's ever written about anything knows how difficult that can be, and Lefcowitz deftly avoids that trap.
     In short, if you're a Monkees fan, you love this book.  If you're interested in the pop culture of the late-60's or interested in rock history, you'll love this book.  If you've never "gotten" the Monkees (or think they were no more than a cynical money-making fabrication of some corporate suits), you'll learn much from this book.  If you ever wondered the background of the creative team behind Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces and how the Monkees' film Head fits into it, take a look.  And, if you ever wondered how Mike Nesmith managed to be at Abbey Road studios while the Beatles were recording "A Day in the Life," well, here's your book!
     Hey, hey, we're ALL Monkees.


07 January 2011

Top Five Songs about Cities I've Never Visited

5.  "Houston" recorded by Dean Martin

4.  "On the Road to Mandalay" recorded by Frank Sinatra, based on poem by Rudyard Kipling

3.  "Seattle" recorded by Bobby Sherman, theme song of Here Comes the Brides

2.  "City of the Angels"  recorded by Tony Bennett, written by Fred Astaire

1.  "Gainesville" recorded by Linda Ronstadt from Randy Newman's Faust


06 January 2011

Life is all in the (bad) timing

In the same week that the homeless guy with the "golden voice" lands a job, "commercial music radio" is ruled to be obsolete!

Ah, cruel fate!!!

02 January 2011

Vestis virum facit (The "fashionable" 1980s)

1981 (collarless shirt)
1981 (bowtie and doublebreasted suit)

1982 (white pants)

1984/5 (The white-collared shirt)

1987 (shiny greenish jacket and narrow tie)


(Photos from the MZ archive)

My favorite "Miles" songs

1. "One Too Many Mornings (and a Thousand Miles Behind)" Bobby Sherman (covering Bob Dylan)


2.  "2000 Miles"     The Pretenders

3. "Miles from Nowhere"     Cat Stevens

4.  "I Can See for Miles"     The Who

5.  "A Thousand Miles"     Vanessa Carleton

6.  "Eight Miles High"     The Byrds

7.  "(I'm Gonna Be) 500 Miles"     The Proclaimers

8.  "500 Miles"     Peter, Paul, and Mary

Last year, I considered spelling my name with a redundant Y like......

...a couple of baseball players on the Cincinnati Reds (Laynce Nix) and Philadelphia Phillies (Jayson Werth).

In 2011, following Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas,


rapper KRS-One ("Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Almost Everyone"),


-- with a dash of Calvino's Cosmicomics thrown into the mix,



not to mention a Dobby-ish/George Costanza-esque penchant for speaking about myself in the third person,


     

...I'm pondering a new moniker that will suggest my fundamental willingness to be present but not necessarily helpful :

Gil.Be.R/T ("Gil Be Right Over There")


01 January 2011

Happy New Year, all...what a way to start the year ("Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I")

I went to see the most recent Harry Potter film with the family today (since our Cleveland trip got canceled at the very last minute due to illness there). 

We went to the Bowtie Cinemas in Hartford since younger daughter had won two free passes because of her perfect attendance record in middle school.  The theatre has a terrible ad campaign:

Bowties: a gift on nobody's Christmas list.
Bowties Cinemas Gift Certificates: a gift on everyone's Christmas list.

Well, I hate to break it to 'em, but I had bowties on my Christmas list and received THREE of 'em.  (Last time I'm going there to see a movie.)

So, this was my first (and probably last) HP film, and one of the rare first-run films I've seen in a real live theatre in a long time. 

Some thoughts:

a) I don't want to watch commercials I can see on TV at the theatre, and I certainly don't want to see commercials for TV shows at the theatre!  What's wrong with ads for the concessions, film previews, and maybe the odd piece of movie trivia?  That's all you need before the movie. 

b) Boy, are those wizards noisy. (You'd think, if they have figured out how to travel so effortlessly and puts spells on people to turn them into someone else, that they could also reduce the noise involved too.  Oy.)

c) the whole film seems to concern how bad a necklace can make its wearer feel and how the best way to prevent that feeling is not to wear it;

d) where the hell was that Dobie/Doobie/Doogie character earlier?  He sure waited a long time to show up and save the day; 

e) that important scene in the forest seems to be a mixture of "Bambi" and "The Sword in the Stone";

f) I kept waiting for that deep-voiced lion to show up;

g) Hermione kept reminding me of Mary Louise Parker;

h) flushing oneself down a toilet seems to send the wrong message, no?

i) the most memorable line during the film was not in the film itself but by the younger daughter when she made an allusion to Ferris Bueller's Day Off (another film I saw for the first time this weekend...and another film the popularity of which baffles me!)   Noticing the blank yet pained expression on my face during the movie, she turned and said: "Dad, you look like Cameron."
j) I am REALLY glad my daughters enjoyed this film, but I'm pretty sure I can do without what I'm told will be an all-out war in Deathly Hallows Part II.  The anticipated decibel level alone will be enough to keep me away, and a nose-less Ralph Fiennes isn't a big enough draw to lure me back.

k) Now, if Hermione grows up and starts a marijuana business, well, THEN we might have something.